High Tensions in Sudan after New Protests


Photo source: Al Jazeera
By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

Throngs of protesters marched in October 2021 in Khartoum and other major cities, to voice their support for a civilian rule. To some estimates, participants numbered in thousands. Many businesses in central Khartoum had been closed in anticipation of more protests, and there was an extensive police presence.
The demonstrators, who were seen arriving in central Khartoum on dozens of buses, clashed with police, and were gassed heavily. Earlier to this, members of an unidentified armed group removed security barriers around government buildings and prevented the police and security forces from preparing for the march.
It is Sudan’s biggest political crises in its two year old transition. The military had dissolved the transitional government,  and also arrested the prime minister Hamdok and some other civilian leaders. It made African Union suspend Sudan's membership. 
Before the coup, Sudanese  graveled about the power sharing agreement, drafted as the Sovereign Council, between civilian groups and military, since toppling of long standing President Omar al Bashir in 2019.
There had been another failed coup attempt in September 2019 attributed to forces loyal to Bashir. Most of the involved officers, however, were arrested.
Several political factions including ex-rebel groups have also announced the formation of an alliance which is separate from Sudan’s main civilian bloc.

Military leaders, on the other hand, had been demanding reforms to the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition, the civilian umbrella and the replacement of the cabinet. Civilian leaders, however, have accused them of aiming for a power grab, but military insists that they are committed to next elections in 2023.

Pro-civilian protesters have been calling for the preservation of the democratic transition, and the values of the revolution that were gained after the 2019 uprising. There is a strong support of U.S for Sudan’s democratic transition as well.

These protests took place on the anniversary of the country's 1964 October Revolution, and were preceded by days of smaller neighbourhood protests. To counter this, there also has been a rival sit-in that has been orchestrated by senior figures in the security forces, Bashir sympathisers and other counter-revolutionaries.
The country seems to be economically ridden, as people are hungry, children can’t go to the school, and hospitals aren’t functioning well.
Volker Perthes, UN special representative to Sudan, stressed ‘the need to maintain the constitutional partnership between the military and civilian component.’ Perthes even urged for a return to dialogue and to build on achievements of the transitional period.
Popular support for the government, which was led by Hamdok, who was picked in 2019 by a once-united FFC, had also waned over a tough raft of economic reforms that took a toll on ordinary Sudanese. Delays in delivering justice to the families of those killed under Bashir, and even during the 2019 protests following his ouster, has left Hamdok vulnerable to criticism.
And since mid-September 2019, the government has been criticised for its handling of anti-government protests in the east, resulting in a blockade of Sudan’s key maritime trade hub of Port Sudan by Beja tribes, triggering shortages nationwide. There were dozens of containers that were left untouched, and roads leading to Khartoum were cut. The port is pivotal for Sudan, as country’s sixty per-cent of trade passes through it, with an average of twelve hundred containers. It is due to this reason why South Darfur was left without adequate supply of bread, due to poor wheat supply. Other smaller ports in the east, including Osman Digna in Suakin city, have also been blocked. With the result, some thirty three thousand port workers and others who work in customs and shipping offices have had no income since the closure.
In the October 2020 peace deal between the rebels and government, it is believed by dwellers of eastern Sudan that they have been not represented well. Similar protests happened in the past, although they were on a smaller scale. Several hundred of truck drivers have also joined in the protests. Hence, the protests in the east were the starting point for the wave of unrest in the country.
According to Al Jazeera journalist, Hiba Morgan, the 2020 deal is ‘not the representative and does not address the root causes of marginalisation’ and ‘underdevelopment in the eastern region.’
There have been futile attempts by the government to save Sudan from economic collapse, by embarking on IMF backed economic reforms, including scrapping diesel and petrol subsidies, as well as declaring a managed float of the Sudanese pound to stem a rampant black market. Sudan is still reeling from a triple-digit inflation rate which only slightly eased in mid-2021.
It was in September 2021 when tensions even escalated between Sudan and Ethiopia over disputed border areas of fertile farmlands in al-Fashqa. Sudan military had said that it had thwarted an attempted incursion by Ethiopian forces in the border area between the two countries. The Ethiopian forces were made to retreat from the Umm Barakit area.


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